It’s not that I am ungrateful. I am reticent to list what I am grateful for, lest it be taken from me as punishment for being boastful. Superstitions run deep. I tried years ago to do what Oprah exhorted us to do. I bought a pretty journal. I began to write down my many blessings. I lasted maybe two days. Maybe I wasn’t doing it correctly? Maybe I should list less tangible graces in my life? Nope. That was even more frightening. How dare I jeopardize my loved ones’ health and love? Why don’t I just mentally acknowledge these blessings and leave the journaling to Oprah and her acolytes?
One of the first morning prayers Jews have the opportunity to recite is the Modeh/Modah Ani (Thankful Am I Before You). This list of fifteen blessings begins with thanking the Creator of all Life for restoring to us our soul. The text then offers thanks for gifts both mundane and ephemeral. One of the fifteen reads, “Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, who has provided me with all my needs.” For years I thought only in terms of the tangibles. There was so much! Food. Clothing. A home. A loving family.
A wise teacher pointed out that we are also provided with gifts we neither want nor think we need. In truth, these gifts are the difficult necessities of emotional and spiritual growth. Do any of us need the pain, disease, upheaval, shattering, confusion, anger, and sorrow inevitably visited upon us? We struggle to see them as the Divine seeds for transformation that they truly are. When they take root we feel broken, abandoned. If we can find our way to facing, and even embracing them, we have the opportunity to harvest compassion and solace. We can take steps toward lifestyle changes and begin to rebuilt our lives with clarith. Being provided with all our needs challenges us to transmute our anger into understanding and open a sorrowful heart to the hope that we might one day laugh again.
Whatever our belief system, inherent in “Thank you” is “You’re welcome.” Maybe that’s why I struggled against keeping a gratitude jurnal. For me, listing things I was grateful for was a solitary exercise. I need to offer up my thankfulness to a beyond-the-imagination force who hears and possibly even accepts it with gratitude as well.